Monday, February 1, 2016

Sue Aquila

Pre-Race Protocol

This season, I will have completed at least two 140.6 races, five 70.3 races and RAGBRAI (I have been told this is a competitive eating contest with a cycling problem). I have had ample practice to develop my pre-race protocol. What have I learned? Before I even start my pre-race protocol I need to have my family, work and training in their respective sweet spots.

Small Unit: A Woman's Tri Perspective - Part II

As a follow up to my original article on training and racing as a woman, I want to cover some equipment issues of importance to small athletes.

Hot Racing and Nutrition

We're continuing to revisit some of our team's best advice for managing the heat in training and racing.

Elite AGer and coach Sue Aquila shares her tips for preparing your nutrition strategy for hot conditions.

Small Unit: A Woman's Tri Perspective - Part I

Small woman triathletes have unique physiologies and should approach the sport differently than their larger male peers. I believe you qualify as a small unit if you are 66 inches (5’6”) or less in height and under 135 lbs. Chances are you have a reputation as being a poor to okay swimmer, fine on the bike and a really good runner!

Beta Testing Your Season

I am close to launching my new company. Before the official launch, I need to start beta testing our program. Beta testing is where I ask people to poke holes into our program. Does it work? Where are the bottlenecks? What are we missing?

The last few years I have started beta testing my triathlon season.

Break to Breakthrough

This past year, I have embarked on a new project involving a small business startup. It has been 16 years since my last “I know nothing about this industry” start up.

In all those years, I completely forgot the emotional energy required to manage a start up. I am continuing my no drama management approach despite having moments that fluctuate from the flash terror of “this is going to be a colossal failure” to “what happens if it takes off?”

Again I have learned that if I had known everything involved in a startup in a new industry, I would have never taken on this project. The best part about being overwhelmed in the information dump from a new industry is that the learning curve is steep, fast and perpetual.

I love every moment of it.

Motivate Yourself: The High and Low Self

“It is not my job to motivate you. My job is to teach you how to motivate yourself.”
- Dotty Hall, professor and coach

I ponder frequently about motivation. I do so especially in the dark cold winter months where it seems I endlessly ride the bike trainer or hover over the long black line. Some days I walk by my trainer in dread of the workout ahead.

I am intimately aware that I can quit at anytime. Retire. Call it a career and sell my gear in a garage sale.

Yet I don’t.

Jump Up and Over Plateaus

After four years, my running stopped improving. Plateaus are inevitable. Acceptance is not! Through the help of my two coaches, Marilyn McDonald and previously, Gordo Byrn, I learned that sometimes we need to jump up and over plateaus, especially in our off season or winter months.

Leaving a Mark

Starting and owning my first business was a dream born in high school and realized in my late 20s. The only skills I seemed to have at that time were perseverance and focus. I didn’t know enough to know how difficult it was to actually start a business. My success was born out of my fear for failure (a skill I apply frequently to my triathlon racing).

After the first few months after opening my business, I began to drown in the reality of my roles. I was the staff, manager, owner, accountant, janitor, banker and legal department. I excelled in a few of the areas but in most of them I would rate my performance as poor. Not long into the journey, the clouds cleared and I knew the next step: it was time to terminate my employment.

Shut up and Improvise

My hobby of triathlon takes as much work as my actual work. To quote Vince, a fellow team member/business owner at Endurance Corner, “I am a professional triathlete and a part-time business owner.” Doing both, triathlon and business, requires my personal priorities to be perfectly aligned:

  • Family/Friends
  • Health
  • Business

Self Improvement

Now that my breakthrough season has ended, I find myself in a new place. Content. Tired. Resting. Recovering. Eating. Making Merry. Happy.

At Masters swimming I had a friend ask me what was I getting ready for next. My response? Self-improvement. I realized after Kona that the goal was never the answer. And Kona was never the question. The last five years have truly been a journey in self-improvement.

How did I improve?

The End of Your Season

I am now unloading fitness after a fourteen month journey that ended with crossing the finish line in Kona. I started this journey in August of 2011 with a breakthrough performance at Ironman Louisville and a Kona qualification in May of 2012 at Ironman Texas.

Unloading for me usually means “touching” swimming and cycling once or twice the week post race. This year it included touching a Mai Tai or two as well.

Carrying Your Training Load

If you have followed along all these years, you have watched my journey from a back of the pack triathlete to a Kona qualifier and finisher. How did I get from there to here?

I had to learn to carry my load in training. Training load or work is a combination of intensity and volume. The safest way to learn to carry your load is to manipulate the amount (volume) of training you are completing. The off season is a great time to experiment with your training load.

A Sense of Urgency

I was fortunate to recently spend some time with one of the members of our management team. She was training some new staff and mentioned the need to teach our new co-workers the ability to work with “a sense of urgency.”

I am now a few short weeks from my first Ironman World Championship. Achieving this goal has required three years of dedication, consistency, focus and luck. I came to our sport at age 40 and I am starting to feel the weight of change in my life. My nest is now empty, menopause looms, my body is aging and I often wonder if my willingness to suffer will eventually wane.

Living the Dream

I always chuckle when I think of one of our EC coaches (Justin Daerr) passing me on a tough day during camp and shouting out, “Living the dream!” Some days I really feel like I am living the dream and other days (during my Kona prep) I contemplate that we all get what we deserve.

Being able to be an ironman athlete can work for almost anyone. Being able to do it well and not end up unemployed, divorced and living homeless with your multitude of bikes requires a few things.

Race Week in Your Happy Place

Early in my career as a business owner, vacations were rare. The few that I took involved stressing about the vacation, making the travel plans for the vacation, scrambling to get everything done for the vacation and spending a sleepless night packing to leave at an evil hour the next morning.

I quickly learned this process was not going to work as I spent multiple vacations with some type of illness. Irritating to me and annoying to my family.

It is no coincidence many triathletes end up sick during race week as they juggle the finishing touches on their preps/tapers, meeting work deadlines and family commitments.

Eat to Live and Win

I have posted this photo for a credibility check. I am about 18 years younger in that picture. Things to notice (besides the bad fashion choices and the cute baby) are my weight and the bag of Cheetos behind me. Not pretty.

Unfortunately, that is not pregnancy weight. I actually adopted my daughter and managed to put on weight in the process!

I keep this photo next to my computer in my office to remind me where I have been and to reinforce my choices today. I was carrying almost 40-50 pounds of extra weight in that picture. Today I celebrate that I am a healthy weight and very fit.

The Complaint Race Strategy

One thing I love (and hate) is when my business receives complaints. Why do I love a complaint? It shows someone cares and they want to give us a chance to retain them as a customer. Sometimes they just want to help us make our business better. Conversely, I hate complaints because it means we screwed up.

A couple of years ago, I realized that the same thing applies to my racing attitude.

Racing to Kona

Through the years, I have had had six direct competitors in my business. Two of them were national chains within throwing distance. Why did we prevail?

We knew our business.
We knew our competition.
We knew the market.

I used a similar strategy to prevail at Ironman Texas this year.

Fast and Deep

Every year, we give our daughter and our nephews an adventure for Christmas. One year, we decided that the adventure would be white river rafting in the Gauley River. We had a hint of things to come when the guide asked to discuss the day’s adventure privately with us.

He pointed out that we had a great day ahead -- actually, a world class day. The river was almost at its highest level due to recent storms. A few more feet, and the river would be closed. He informed us that almost the whole ride would be Class V rapids which increased the level of danger.

After some debate (my partner is the cautious one operating out of the Worst Case Scenario Guidebook), we elected to take the trip.

The Will to Win

In my business, I spend most of my time with college students. Many of them are young, unproven and searching for their paths. On occasion someone special shows up. Despite his or her youth, the individual radiates strength and purpose. That person ends up being a cornerstone of our team.

As I get to know these individuals, I find they usually have a story with a crucible moment. Something happened to someone they love dearly or to themselves that involved making a tremendously hard choice. These are the individuals that go on to great success on their chosen path.

An Ultra Life

This is a year of celebrations for me: my business is 15 years old, we’re celebrating our 15th anniversary in our relationship and my daughter graduates from high school to attend the college of her choice this fall.

Yes, I am smiling today. On one hand, I believe my life is really the result of a lot of luck. On the other hand, I have been fortunate to be surrounded by some excellent teachers.

A Degree in Triathlon

I was recently speaking with a young triathlete who was lamenting his “relationship” with his coach. He was complaining that his coach has been hard on him lately for not following the workouts. He then went on to complain about how he has some strong weeks of training and then ends up injured. I find these conversations interesting as a business owner, coach and “mature” (as in over 35) triathlete.

Refining Your Training

At the end of every year, the CFO for my business and I have “the talk.” What worked? What didn’t? Where do I need to improve? Once you have a finished profit and loss statement, it is a very straightforward conversation. As the owner and president, it is my performance review.

When I finish a triathlon season, I have a similar analysis about my performance. This year ended up very positive with the only change being “more of the same.” As I enter my 2012 season, my training involves changes in millimeters rather than kilometers.

Going Nowhere to Run Fast

I am a bit of an oddity in our local running scene. We live in a spectacular area for running with the beautiful Indiana University Campus and a new City of Bloomington rails to trails route. With all these options available, one day a week you will find me running in circles. Lots of circles.

Sometimes it will be a local track (if I can find one open) but most often you will find me running around the IU football stadium. I will do this for anywhere from one to three hours. Why? Because I want to win.

Second Training Home

I'm fortunate to have a new training base in the Caribbean. I now have an alternative when the winters in the Midwest get cold and grey. Here is what I learned about setting up a remote training base in a warm climate.

For Women Triathletes. Period.

I realized today that I have had my period (menstruation) for almost 30 years of my life. Every three weeks. Sixteen per year for three to four days. 480 times in 30 years. A minimum of 1440 days. I have used tampons for at least three years of my life. When a girl is born she should automatically receive stock in a manufacturer of women's personal hygiene items.

Since this is “define your limiters” month at Endurance Corner, I thought this would be an appropriate topic to discuss. Please note, I am not a medical professional. The info I am sharing is personal experience only with periods, long course racing and training.

Unlimiting Progress

Six years ago I fell in love with triathlon during my first race. I still remember it. The swim was in this murky, scummy pond in the middle of a horse racing track. I remember thinking if I don’t die from a systemic infection (not to mention chemical exposure), I may actually like this sport.

Fast forward to today and my love affair with triathlon continues.

Blow it Up

My tendency when I write my articles for Endurance Corner is to keep it positive and moving forward. This one is headed in a different direction.

I broke it. All of it. It started with the word tendency. As soon as I think of the word or move in that direction, I know I have a problem. Tendency now means question my assumptions. Often it translates into turning around and going in the other direction. As a result, my discomfort level right now is high and making most things unpleasant.

I have managed to disrupt all three sports. Disrupt? Too tame. "Blow up" is more like it.

Your Last Run

A few days ago one of my friends died unexpectedly while running. When this happened I was vacationing internationally. I received emails from friends and family with a common theme. Most of them remarked on how we need to remember how precious life is every day.

If you are reading this, chances are you are the type of person that excels at executing your training plan. You understand what it takes to do “X” number of minutes at a certain percentage of effort. Like me, you probably take great pride in executing your plan day in and day out.

What about your other 23 hours a day?